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I saw this man at the hardware store. He was unremarkable from behind, but when he turned around, I couldn't identify what I was seeing at first. It simply did not compute. Then I almost screamed. He was only a few years older than me and didn't have an ounce of fat anywhere else on his body. This cartoon is in no way an exaggeration either. It's very true to life. I had to draw him because he haunts me, and he haunts me because I have my own weight problem. Here I am at my heaviest in 1992, when I tipped the scales at two hundred sixty pounds.
     Unlike the man in the hardware store, I have an evenly spread layer of fat that inflates and deflates like a pressure suit. When part of me is fat, all of me is fat. I try to keep myself at a reasonable weight and level of physical fitness, and I've accepted that I probably won't ever have a washboard stomach. I've even developed the ability to look in the mirror without wanting to throw up. My remaining paranoia/body dismorphic disorder centers around what some people call the "love handles." I worry that mine might someday get as big as basketballs. On bad days, I imagine that my forearms rub against them as I walk.
     I've had my weight problem since I was nine. I climbed a tree one night to watch some nocturnal construction work, fell out, and broke my right arm at the wrist, elbow, and shoulder. We were living in Venezuela, where according to my father the doctors could deliver babies and remove arrows from oil field workers, but that was all. I was immediately flown to Miami to have my arm set by an orthopedic surgeon who was also the team doctor of the Miami Dolphins. After a few weeks, I managed to knock the bones out of place and had to be flown back to Miami for a second operation. I spent almost three months in casts. I'd always had a very large appetite, and I'd always turned to food as a stress buster, only now I couldn't play outside and burn it off. So I got fat. I didn't know that once you develop fat cells, they stay with you the rest of your life. Unless you get them sucked out.
     At some point in my early fatness, somebody gave me the nickname "Pork," which might be why I no longer eat pig meat of any kind. I saw a woman on television once who thought it was funny to feed her pot bellied pig slices of ham. That really bothered me. Turning an animal into a cannibal seemed like an unnecessarily cruel thing to do, even for laughs. What upset me the most was that the pig almost certainly didn't know what it was eating. I didn't swear off pig because I was afraid that people were going to start making cannibal jokes about me, but the fear must have been there in the back of my mind. Maybe this also explains my dislike of restaurant signs with pictures of happy pigs wearing chef hats.
     I'm gradually going vegetarian. My ultimate goal is crazy, kooky, uncompromising veganism. I don't know if I'll ever get there. Actually, I don't know if I even want to because I've never met a vegan who I particularly liked. They tend to be somewhat humorless. Passionate, yes, but humorless. A sense of humor--better yet, a sense of the absurd--is what I look for in a person, along with the ability to admit to being wrong.
     When I was in the seventh grade, a kid drew a picture of me in art class. He was from a family with twelve children who all looked exactly alike--pale blond hair, long noses, and dark circles around their eyes. They had a massive grayish-green van, the type used to haul prisoners to the county courthouse. In church, they took up a whole pew and arranged themselves by height. The priests organized food drives for them because the mother was prone to horrible diseases and the father had an incredibly menial job. I think he worked in a bowling alley. Anyway, the family was always on the edge of starvation. I can't remember if my parents donated food to them. It would be ironic if they did, given the picture that the one kid drew of me.
     He'd hated me from the second we met. He wanted me to suffer. Maybe he didn't hate me so much as he hated the fact that I obviously had more than enough to eat at home while he was starving, although there were a few kids at that school who were even fatter than me. Most likely, he singled me out because in those days, I was unable to defend myself. I didn't know enough to say, "Hey, is it my fault that you have black circles under your eyes because you can't get any sleep in that three-bedroom zoo you live in with thirteen other people, and you have to wear five-time hand-me-downs and ride around in a jail van with your stomach growling all day? Are you angry at me or somebody else?"
     It started my first week at that school. He would make comments to the other kids about the idiotic thing I'd said in class or how I'd screwed up a basketball game in P.E. or how I didn't know squat about the history of the great state of Texas. He was calm and amused, the most effective approach my nemeses can take. I generally ignored him because if I tried to fight back, he would mimic my s-s-s-stutter or the way I constantly pulled my sweater away from my body so it wouldn't cling. These episodes always took place in front of a rapt audience--he was a kind of impresario, really. He produced his greatest show ever when he sat down across the table from me in art class and announced, "Ah'm gonna draw Wictor, that's whut Ah'm gonna do. Gonna give him greasy hair, lahk this, zits an' a big ol' nose, lahk that, boobs lahk a girl, a fat belly stickin' out in front lahk this, an' a big ass lahk he's got stickin' out in back. An' a cruddy ol' sweater lahk he always wears." When he was finished, he showed me--it was a side view, a line drawing with no shading--and then took it around the room and showed everybody else, including the teacher. It was a great success.
     That summer, I had a growth spurt and embarked on a draconian weight loss program. I was much thinner by the time I started the eighth grade. I still had the same classmates, but they welcomed me now, even calling me on the phone and inviting me to parties. They no longer grouped me with the Italian boy who shouted "Attention!" before he broke wind, the balding girl who didn't speak, and the boy who liked to stand next to his desk for the whole period. In the middle of the year, my family moved to the Netherlands. We attended Midnight Mass a few days before we left, and I ran into the kid who had drawn me. He shook my hand and wished me well.

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